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Charles was elected as Raleigh's 34th Mayor in November, 2001 and served until 2011.  He had also served on the Raleigh City Council in 1985-89 and 1991-95. He works as a lawyer, focusing on local government issue, and has been active in community affairs since 1975.

Charles is an avid runner who has completed more than 20 marathons and many local road races. He is married to Dr. Anne McLaurin. They are parents of Emily, currently clerking at a Federal Court, and David, who works in real estate redevelopment.